The dark side of rushing the courts

Students storm the court after a big game. Photo used under Creative Commons License
Students storm the court after a big game.
Photo used under Creative Commons License

Carlos Font, Staff Writer

   As humans and sports fans, we always appreciate and find sympathy for the weaker team. Yes, I’m talking about the famous “Underdog.” There is nothing more exciting than cheering for the underdog, but there may be a problem when the “underdog” wins and manages to upset the stronger team.

   A trend has developed in collegiate sports of fans storming the court or field when their “underdog” wins. Recent incidents have brought up some questions, speculations and controversy about how dangerous it is for players, coaches and even fans to storm the field.  All we see on TV is a bunch of happy and excited fans, but spectators may not understand the dark and dangerous side of this celebration.

   Roy Glier’s article for Bleacher Report notes relevant examples of how dangerous it can be to storm the court. For example, Glier describes the risk to team managers trying to collect and pick up water bottles and towels while there are hundreds of fans mocking and surrounding them. Glier follows this scenario with other potentially dangerous circumstances: “What about this scene: referees running for their lives with their heads down toward an exit tunnel, hoping they don’t get sideswiped by some drunk kid? Or this one: a fan runs out of the stands and onto the court during a timeout, confronting a coach face-to-face.”

    Glier states that the rushing of the court is not as dangerous as the Running of the Bulls, but just wait, some administrators say. Just wait. One of these days, there is going to be an incident–a blow to the back of the head, a 130-pound student caught in a stampede, a 240-pound athlete fed up with the abuse or a fan bent on violence. Then these overenthusiastic fans will not seem merely like innocent participants in celebration.

   In the same article, Glier interviewed a student from South Carolina University, asking him about rushing the court after South Carolina had won an upset against Kentucky. “It is an adrenaline rush,” admitted the student. “It just took one person to say ‘Hey, let’s storm the court,’ and people started getting up from their seats and getting in the aisles and walking down toward the floor. It was great.”

   But as great as joining athletes on their respective fields is, it can be dangerous. “We had just finished a game and a player from the home team—the home team, not the visiting team—had fallen to the floor,” said a veteran referee, who is not permitted by the conferences he works for to use his name with the media. “The students—his own fans—were jumping over him trying to get on the court. He was on the ground trying to get up from an injury. He was 15 feet away from me, and I couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. Thankfully, his managers and teammates got him out of there. You can get hurt in these rushes of the court.”

Georgia University’s Athletic Director, Greg McGarti, reflected on this issue; “Unfortunately, it might be that something tragic is going to happen to get the point across that these court-stormings are serious business,” McGarti concludes. While the energy and fun of rushing your winning team’s court is tempting, it is important for fans, athletes and coaches alike to keep in mind the risk of getting caught up in a dangerous stampede.